The Role of Arts Organizations in Anchoring Community Economic Development


At a conference on April 13, 2022, co-hosted by the Yale School of Management and the David Geffen School of Drama, Hopkins used his memoir as a launching pad to invite students, faculty and guests to consider the role arts organizations in anchoring community economic development.

Hopkins’ speech was based on working definitions of two terms: anchor institutions as “sustainable organizations that stay in their geographic locations and play a vital role in their local communities and economies” and a anchor mission as “the alignment of basic institutional purpose with community values ​​and local, economic, human, and intellectual resources to enhance the well-being of the community in which the anchor resides.”

Hopkins shared examples of arts organizations that have stimulated economic activity, revitalized neighborhoods, combated cultural displacement and integrated urban planning with cultural heritage. The case studies she cited came from around the world – from the United States to England to China – and illustrated how arts institutions can revitalize and energize the communities with which they engage. Hopkins illustrated how arts organizations can go beyond conceiving of themselves as single-discipline organizations (like a theater or a museum) and instead see themselves as unique contributors to a larger cultural landscape that incorporates street life, arts festivals, as well as residential and commercial development.

Exploring Brooklyn in greater depth, Hopkins emphasized the importance of collaborations between arts organizations. With BAM as the largest of nine central institutions in its cultural district, Brooklyn’s cultural organizations have worked together so that organizations large and small can partner for several years, each contributing their unique resources to reduce costs and provide the audience a richer experience, transforming the neighborhood “from desolation to destination”.

Hopkins closed his speech by calling on leaders of arts organizations to serve as frontline agents of change. Anchored in their neighborhoods, anchor institutions should embrace the community in which they are located. Property developers and local businesses should be recruited to join boards of directors or give back to the community in other ways. Events should be constructed in such a way that local artists, businesses and energy come together in pursuit of an anchoring mission. Responding to questions from the audience, Hopkins emphasized the importance of “economically promoting” the role of arts organizations. Hopkins reminded the audience how green investing had gradually made its way into the mainstream and shared his belief that investing in a creative economy would be the next wave.

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